The Miami Heat have been here before. They’ve never been bothered by hostile away crowds the entire postseason and it was the same case again in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. They didn’t care that the Denver Nuggets were 9-0 at home so far in the postseason, and didn’t even care that they were down by eight points heading into the fourth quarter.
Instead of folding to pressure, the Heat opened the final period with a 15-2 run that gave them their first lead since they were up 29-27 in the second quarter. They eventually even pushed their lead to 12 points, then found a way to hold on for a surprising 111-108 victory in a game where they were down by as many as 15 points.
It was a team effort from start to finish. Gabe Vincent led the Heat in scoring with 23 points while shooting 8 of 12 from the field and 4 of 6 from the three-point line. Max Strus also hit 4 of his 10 shots, all from long distance, while dishing out six assists. Duncan Robinson also scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, which helped spark the Heat’s hot fourth quarter start that retook the lead.
The strong play from their role players allowed Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to have some breathing room and then make big plays of their own. Butler finished the game with 21 points, four rebounds and nine assists, and hit some big shots late in the game to keep the Heat afloat.
Adebayo had his second efficient game in a row with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists while shooting 8 of 14 from the floor, but the difference in Game 2 was that other people stepped up to help him.
A big contributor to the victory was Miami rediscovering their ability to make threes. They shot 17 of 35 from distance, good for 48.6%, compared to Denver’s 11 of 28 (39.3%).
Coach Erik Spoelstra made one of his famous adjustments as he used a 1-3-1 zone defense to great effect in Game 2, while also getting his team to try to force Nikola Jokic to beat them alone. The Serbian center scored 18 of his 41 points in the third quarter to give the Nuggets the advantage after 36 minutes, but Miami prevented anyone else from getting hot.
Jamal Murray managed to get some buckets late in the game but also missed a game-tying three after the Nuggets got a stop with around 12 seconds left on the clock. Coach Michael Malone elected not to use a timeout, which made Murray rely on a stepback three to tie the game, and he almost made it.
The Heat found their aggression again as well. After only taking two free throws in Game 1, Miami made 18 of 20 from the charity stripe, which was enough to counter the 19 of 22 made by Denver. Having now stolen home court advantage, the Heat will be itching to play Game 3 in front of their own fans. If they play like this again, they have a great chance of potentially going back to Denver with a 3-1 edge.
Miami have once again proven that their battle-tested iron will is no easy thing to overcome. Butler, their leader on and off the court, clearly isn’t at 100% physically in this series. Yet, he’s somehow finding ways to make huge shots and big plays down the stretch when they matter most. Adebayo, who was wildly inconsistent in the Eastern Conference Finals, has suddenly rediscovered his form as well.
Denver will now have to show what they’re made of as they try to take home court advantage back by winning one of the next two contests. One thing’s for certain, Jokic alone cannot win this series for them.